Behind The Groove EP7 w/ Larry Houl
Updated: May 17, 2021
We are overjoyed to have French & Algerian vocalist and producer Larry Houl up next on Behind The Groove as he provides some fantastic insights into his writing process of merging acoustic and electronic elements in his music. Known for his project Secret Value Orchestra where he sings alongside band mates Flabaire, Paul Cut, Mud Deep and Mr. Popo he has also had many solo hits on the likes of Blaq Numbers, Feelings, theBasementDiscos and Start Local Records.
Today we deconstruct the title track 'Diaries' from his D.K.O EP, an irresistible jam rooted in jazz and funk about the hardships of being a musician (rather fitting for our current COVID era). Accompanying it is an endearingly cheesy Miami themed video with Larry cracking out the dance grooves. Listen and watch the video for 'Diaries' below:
Hey Larry, thanks so much for chatting to us about your song 'Diaries'. What are the inspirations behind putting together the track ‘Diaries’?
It’s funny because I wrote diaries after going to see Cory Henry at a concert, the american organist. He was a part of Starky Puppy, a big jazz band and I went to concert in Paris and I was amazed. I went home and I just started to write Diaries and it just came from this concert, it inspired me a lot. I remember first I started to compose the drums, the beat, then after the bass, the chords. It took 3 hours to write this song.
The song is not very complicated, there’s not a lot of instruments, it was very quick to write but it was fun!
I first heard about you from Secret Value Orchestra. What other projects are you currently a part of?
I have a project with my friend Flabaire, it’s called Ralph and Larry Houl, we got the band, [Flabaire] is also a part of Secret Value Orchestra, he does the bass. I have wrote a couple of songs with Demuja. Right now, I’m doing a song with a girl called Mira Lo and working with another guy called MAJUSCULE and also on my album. But my main projects are Secret Value Orchestra, Larry Houl and the duo with Ralph ([Flabaire].
In terms of your upcoming album, will all the lyrics be in French?
Yeah the lyrics are in French because I am Algerian it’s talking about my Algerian origins, science fiction and other stuff, it’s a big project for me.
Do you know what’s always intrigued me, that some people say that when you learn another language and you start to speak and think in that language it can sometimes change your character. If you were to write songs in French, compared to if you were to write songs in English do they have a different character?
Yeah for sure! In French I am able to talk about my origins. I don’t think with Secret Value Orchestra I could talk about that on songs because it’s very individual and I need to sing it in French.
I bet you get this a lot but you sound very much like Jamiroquai!
Yeah I know! (laughing) I love Jamiroquai, they are a big influence with a lot of stuff but yeah I think it’s the bass of everything. For me I started with Jamiroquai, Michael Jackson, all this pop stuff you know.
It was my music when I was a teenager, I was listening to Jamiroquai everyday. They were amazing in the 90s. All the people from the band like Toby Smith, they were unbelievable you know. They wrote a lot of good music.
Moving more onto your ‘Diaries EP’ was the whole EP influenced by the Cory Henry Concert you saw?
Yeah so the track ‘Diaries’ came from Cory Henry, he has a big influence on my music and for sure on 'Diaries'. For the rest of the EP it’s electronic stuff so I’ve got a lot of influence from the likes of Daft Punk, soul music, funk music, electronic, house, techno, everything. On this EP you’ve got four tracks. You’ve got a funk track, you’ve got a techno track, broken beat, the track ‘Cosmic Area’ and the second track is called ‘Turn Me On’ it’s like a soul track, a mellow, soul track. For this track I think who influenced me a lot was Bobby Caldwell ‘What You Won’t Do For Love’.
But you know, we could talk about that for hours, I have a lot of influences, I listen to a lot of music but I think the kind of music that I adore is Bosso nova. I love Bosso nova, like Gilberto Gil, all these great Brazilian composers. I love classical music too, I love Debussy, I love all this kind of stuff. Algerian music a kind called Chaabi, it all has an influence on me.
Instruments wise what do you play?
I sing mostly and I play a little bit of keyboard. I’m not a real keyboard player but I can write music with a keyboard; the bass, the lead and some chords but sometimes I need to work with people, if I need jazzy chords I ask my friend Paul Cut.
How long ago was it that you decided to do music full time?
3 years ago, I always worked in a lot of restaurants but 3 years ago I said no I’m just going to do only music. When I started to have a lot of gigs or DJ sets and with my band I thought maybe this is the moment to just do music. I said to myself maybe you can do it.
The Creation of Diaries
Studio Set Up
I used an Roland 808 for the drums, so all the drums are from an 808, the bass is from a Minimoog, and so are the chords, a plug in of Arturia. Everything is on plugin but they are all great plugins.
When I create the drums it's mostly 4, 4 but when I was at the Cory Henry concert they were jamming a lot. The drums of 'Diaries' is similar to the grooves that they were doing at the concert. It’s a simple groove, very simple. I just reproduced the groove of the guys from the concert at home and it became 'Diaries'.
It’s the moog, there’s a plugin called E-Piano and I use it a lot of the time and it works good! And I love the sound so I use it a lot of the time in my music. I just write the chords on my Novation midi keyboard.
All of the musical parts are there before the vocals. The melody came without words. At the beginning there was just melody and then I wrote the lyrics but you know at this time I just wanted to write about myself and being, not a poor musician, but like a musician who started doing music with this difficulty of doing music. Sometimes it's hard and I want to talk about it. This song is about the difficulty of doing music.
I think I wrote the bass next [Larry singing the bass melody]. Sometimes it’s just jamming you know, sometimes I write the chords first, sometimes I write the bass, it depends.
I love improvisation, I love to jam, I don’t like to work. I love to have fun when I make music. I don’t think too much. I just make the music and sometimes it becomes and good song and sometimes it becomes a bad song [laughing] but I love to jam, I love to have fun, it’s the most important thing for me when I’m doing music. It comes from my heart.
Do you tend to play in the melodies or write in the melodies on Ableton?
On ‘Diaries’ there is a lot of MIDI due to all the plugins but on the whole EP there is a lot of acoustic stuff. There is a fender Rhodes on 'Turn Me On', there is a guitar by Flabaire, it depends on what I need for tracks. When I need acoustic I ask a studio musician. Sometimes I write the part before and I just say "ah can you do this part for me, can you play it like this and just reproduce what I want". I love to mix electronic and acoustic, that's what we do in my band [Secret Value Orchestra]
A lot of people don’t [mix electronic and acoustic] because it’s very difficult to do, you need an engineer. It’s very important for me because with my band we all came from acoustic bands and we started to make electronic music because we didn’t have enough money to do acoustic stuff. Sometimes to be a DJ is better because you’re alone and you’re just doing you’re thing and when you have a band it costs a lot more money, so we started to make electronic music. Like Flabaire was in a rock band, I was in funk band. This is why we love to mix electronic and acoustic.
I’ve got an engineer who does the mix called Jee Hajee. I think sometimes you need help, and it helped the song. It sounds better. I’m not the guy whose doing everything. I prefer to write my music, compose and give the tune to a guy who knows his job.
Right now I usually write on MIDI and when I need help I’ll call a musician to help do the part better but mostly I start at home with all my plugins and after I go to the studio and call musicians. Sometimes I do just release a track I made at home with only plugins and MIDI stuff, it happens too!
Writing and Arrangement
My plan for this song [originally] was to write an intro for the EP. I just wanted to write a long jam with the same groove, the same drums for 5 minutes, just jamming but it became a song.
There is a part two of diaries but it’s unreleased, my plan was to have the beginning and the end on one track. It’s really a jam, there was no vocals on it, just instruments.
My ambition for the track was to write a song with a verse, a bridge and a chorus. I started the music with the chorus after you have the lead part, after you’ve got the verse, after you’ve got the chorus with the lead part after you’ve got a little bridge and after there is a solo. There is a song structure for the track.
I was thinking about the other part, the part 2 but it was not included in the song. Sometimes you don’t need it, sometimes you just need a simple track. I just said it’s okay, I don’t need more stuff on this song and it’s working. There are no rules.
What makes you think actually this is ready to take to the studio?
It was just a feeling that it was a good song. I take the stems and nothing changes a lot from the first arrangement of the song, and my engineer did a great job on it. Nothing else was added to the song at the studio.
I did many vocal takes in the studio, the engineer is a perfectionist too, so sometimes he will say “do the vocals better”[laughing]. Sometimes you need a good partnership with people, if someone says to me "you need to redo the vocals they were not great" that’s okay for me. I think there were maybe 4 or 5 or 6 takes.
It’s just about feeling and for me I’m just working like that, just feeling, just jamming, just having fun, that’s the most important thing for me when I make music.
Of course, you also have the video to go along with the track! Where did the idea for the video come from?
It’s just a funny video, I just made in the garage of a friend. The funny thing was I was looking at old videos of Miami on YouTube and I found a video of Miami from a helicopter and I thought it would be good to do a video with this kind of stuff. My friends Julien Avèque and Victor Hérault had an idea and said okay we can take this and you can sing in front of this. It was just a silly video but it was fun to do it. My first video was for Acid Berbère which you need to watch!
A huge thanks to Larry Houl for chatting to us about 'Diaries' you can find the track and the rest of the EP below via Beatport.